Today as I was writing this I was reflecting on who might be reading this in the next coming days as we enter into a new year. As we sit in these moments of reflection and more importantly the hope of a fresh start. As we all take time to consider the ways we want to improve I know I’ve thrown a grenade into this pleasant exchange of dreams and goals. I know some of you read the title and felt the need to defend your faith. Perhaps you’re concerned or angered by someone publicly choosing to leave the faith; maybe you feel the need to dismiss my reasons for leaving or justify your reasons for staying. Maybe you read this title and agreed with me and have walked away some time ago; perhaps you’re a religious “none”. Or perhaps you’re like me. You’re doubtful of what you have been taught as a child because of what you see as an adult. Something about all this just doesn’t make sense. You’re seeking because you’re not ready to jump. So you’re hoping to gain perspective.
If I’m being honest I pray that today you read this searching, seeking for truth, full of doubt but not ready to abandon your upbringing. I know, for some, that last sentence has caused you some discomfort. Maybe this article isn’t for you. It’s just going to piss you off. This is for the “nones” who have already left, for the curious, and most importantly, for the doubters. Those that have been told that their doubt is a lack of faith or are put down when they ask too many questions. I’m telling you that simply isn’t true!
I believe that doubt is a crucial aspect of Christianity. One of my professors at Johnson University once told me that doubt is not the opposite of faith, the opposite of faith is certainty. It is through doubt that one can grow in their understanding of their faith. Some of you reading this have come to doubt. I want to welcome you and let you know that you are not alone.
Over the course of the last few years, I have been blessed to meet and know many people in the church that are beginning to question and doubt the teachings they have grown up with all their lives because of what’s happening in our country. From Trump being painted as the evangelical “moral” candidate of majority white christians, to the church’s reaction or lack of reaction to the Charlottesville protests, to the #MeToo movement, to the blatant disregard for the brutal oppression of minorities, refugees, women, and LGBTQ groups, but what is the most offensive is the rampant evangelical silence.
I understand these are exaggerations of conservative extremists. Many believers don’t come from churches like that of Dr. Robert Jeffress that would actually go so far as to write and perform a Trump “worship song” for their Fourth of July service. Many don’t attended colleges that have presidents like Jerry Falwell Jr. who publicly and boldly pledge all their allegiance and adoration for a man that makes no genuine effort to dissuade the American people from believing he is NOT a greedy lying businessman, a misogynist, a rapist, a serial molester, a racist, and the farthest thing from a “born again” christian even by our lowest standards. Remember, this man gave an interview on camera where he explicitly stated that he has never asked God for forgiveness because, and I quote, “I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.”
Christianity isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination but the beautiful reality is that we are all invited by a loving God to join him in creating a world, just like he did, that seeks peace and love above all things. There is a profound joy in coming to realize the significance of being chosen to participate in such a beautiful endeavor.
So no… I’m not quitting Christianity in 2018, not really. But kinda… See, Christ didn’t come to conquer people into christianity or to legislate laws that would ensure ‘moral obedience’ by threat of fine or imprisonment. Forcing religion onto people was never Christ’s intention. No, he didn’t come to be powerful by ancient Jewish standards and, NEWS FLASH, he didn’t come to be powerful by our standards either! Please don’t miss this. He came to invite us to create, with him, a new heaven on earth through sacrificial service that resulted in his death.
You wanna know what he came here to do?
He came to proclaim good news to the poor,
to proclaim freedom for the prisoners,
recovery of sight for the blind,
and to set the oppressed free!
Friends, these are NOT my words but the words of Christ himself as recorded in Luke 4:16-21. I grew up in a church that taught me to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; for the rights of all who are destitute. (Prov. 31:8) I grew up in a church that taught me that I should strive to be like Christ in all aspects of life. I grew up in a church that is lead by and full of those that would call me a ‘social justice warrior’ and intend it to be an insult. Tell me how that plays with the verses I mentioned above. DM me…
I grew up in a church that excommunicated me after 15+ years of dedicated membership; after years of church camps; after teaching me to lead and preach they stripped me of that service; and forbade me from attending youth events. My mentors accused me and two of my friends, one now a pastor in AZ and the other a missionary in Slovenia, of sowing seeds of dissent within the church. Their reason for this? All because one time on a church trip we spoke well of a past youth minister that, unknown to most of us, was also forcibly removed from the church. Tell me how that plays into Christ’s teachings.
In Luke chapter four we see Jesus first entering his ministry. Many scholars see this as the very beginning of his path towards the cross and in these few verses, Christ takes the opportunity to declare to his home church and all those he grew up with what the main tenants of his ministry are going to be. According to scripture, he does this right after being tempted in the wilderness. The devil tempted Christ with sustenance, but Christ knew that man does not live on bread alone. The devil tempted Christ with power, but he knew that power is an idol and that it is the meek who shall inherit the earth. The devil tempted him the last time on a high place calling for Christ to jump so that God would save him, but Christ knew that it is prideful to put God to the test.
What I see, and many others see, when we look to current events and the unfolding of the Trump presidency is a church that has compromised. I see the “moral right” choosing to support an individual that has made undeniable the blatant hypocrisy of American christianity. I see people that have been tempted with sustenance and have given over to greed. I see those that have been tempted with power who now worship America; the rise of Christian Nationalism. I see those on that high place being tempted, and with certainty and pride, they choose to jump. But I also see many many more standing on the edge. Holding back.
My ‘liberal’ friends like to ask me why I haven’t just walked away from all this. Why be a part of this, why dwell in this hypocrisy? My ‘conservative’ friends ask me why I’m so negative all the time. Do you see my dilemma? I don’t know what to tell them. We all dwell in some manner of hypocrisy. Realizing this and choosing not to be compliant causes you to speak against that hypocrisy so you are told you’re negative or too political. But the truth is that I stand here hopeful because regardless of our failures, regardless of whether you want to listen to me, the Gospel of Christ is still true and the kingdom of heaven can still come. Is that negative?
My new years resolution is to quit Christianity. At least this version of christianity we see every day in the news. I don’t know if that means a re-branding or what. I haven’t thought that far. But I do know that I no longer wish to be associated with this hypocritical line of thinking. I’m tired of Christ and the church being smeared because of evangelical silence on matters that Christ would have willingly offered his life for, AGAIN! We are all guilty by association. So it’s time to speak up. This year I challenge all of us to put down our pride.
Join me in not being silent anymore. Join our small community of doubters, seek Christ in all aspects of your life, and humbly allow room for doubt and uncertainty even if that might look a little unChristian. This year don’t jump.
About The Author
Rafael Herrera studied Preaching and Church Leadership at Johnson University. He works as a mobile notary, UBER Driver, and is the founder of SymposiumSquare. When he isn't online reading too many news articles he's working on this website and listening to "This American Life" or "The Liturgists Podcast."
Self proclaimed coffee connoisseur, amateur videographer, and very #StableGenius. Follow him on Twitter and other social medias @BigSalsa.
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